Stuck again: Action postponed on WVa Senate redistricting

October 18, 2021 GMT

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia’s Republican-controlled Senate postponed final action on a redistricting map again Monday as debate dragged into a second week.

The Senate postponed a third reading several times before recessing Monday night after similar moves Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Senators’ attention had returned to a 17-district map that emerged last week from a redistricting committee after two other maps did not advance Monday. The committee-approved map would divide seven of the state’s 55 counties. The two other maps would have further splintered county lines.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the committee-approved map would be the focal point again when the Senate reconvenes on Tuesday.

The present Senate map approved a decade ago by the then-Democratic controlled Legislature splits 13 counties.

While the state constitution requires districts to be compact, formed of a contiguous territory, bounded by county lines and be as equal as possible in population, “it is, however, impossible to draw districts that are equal in population without dividing some counties,” said the committee’s chairman, Morgan County Republican Charles Trump.

Each district must be as close to 105,513 residents as possible. Many district borders are being shifted because the state lost population over the past decade.

On Wednesday night, another map that initially had no sponsor’s name attached later was revealed to have been offered by five Republican senators. The anonymous posting and the map’s additional movement of district borders prompted harsh criticism on the Senate floor Friday from Cabell County Democrat Mike Woelfel. That map was among the two rejected Monday.

The Senate earlier concurred with the House of Delegates’ version of that chamber’s redistricting map. The House last week passed a new single-member district system for all 100 delegates, a change mandated by 2018 legislation. Currently, there are 67 districts and more than half of the House is elected from multiple-member districts.

The Legislature approved a two-district congressional map last week. After the 2020 census, West Virginia lost one of its three U.S. House seats.